President Erdoğan may stay in power until 2029

President Erdoğan may stay in power until 2029

It was on Oct. 11, when the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli revived a long-standing discussion on the introduction of the presidential system and signaled his party’s support to a charter amendment to be drafted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

With 316 votes in Parliament, the AKP was in dire need of at least 14 additional votes to take a constitutional amendment to referendum and the support of the 40-seat MHP hit the spot just at the right time. 

Nearly a month after, Bahçeli declared his support to the AKP, the ruling party delivered a draft constitutional amendment to the nationalist opposition party with expectations that the text would be finalized in the following weeks after necessary fine tunings.

AKP leader and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and the MHP’s head, Devlet Bahçeli, called on Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), to join their bid in changing the constitution and governance system. Kılıçdaroğlu strongly accused the AKP of trying to introduce a dictatorial regime in Turkey through the system change, by giving all powers to a single person. 

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which has almost been paralyzed after its co-leaders and a dozen of its lawmakers were arrested on alleged terror links, is known to be against such changes, but its voice is hardly heard. 

It won’t be surprising to observe the draft being submitted to Parliament before the end of this year and that the parliamentary vote would take place in January or early February.

In this case, a referendum would be held in either April or May, depending on the pace of parliamentary voting. 

According to Nuray Babacan, daily Hürriyet’s experienced political reporter and chief of its parliamentary bureau, the AKP-MHP draft foresees an empowered presidency with powers to appoint ministers and half of key judicial bodies, to decree laws but with a weak checks-and-balances system. The president can only be probed by the Parliament with 367 votes of the parliamentarians but requires at least 413 out of 550 to prosecute him in the Supreme Council. 

The draft also suggests two vice-presidents, although the AKP was in favor of just one with speculation that the additional seat was reserved for the MHP. Of course, this is still a draft and the MHP will propose changes on the text. 

One interesting point is the fact that although public opinion would vote in favor of a change in the presidential system in 2017, its implementation will begin after the 2019 presidential elections, according to the drafted charter. Until then, current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will enjoy some powers to be granted to him through provisional articles in a bid for him to accomplish his five years in presidency. 

This will allow him another two terms in presidential office starting from 2019 and in that case, if the votes are more than 50 percent in 2019 and 2024 polls, then he will run the country with full powers until 2029. 

It’s hard to foresee from now, how all these processes will change Turkey and its people, and whether it will bring peace and stability. What one can say is the fact that the absence of democratic notions with empowered human rights and fundamental freedoms will result in more than a few problems.